Reading in the Brain Revised and Extended: Response to Comments



    Corresponding author
    1. Collège de France and INSERM-CEA Cognitive Neuroimaging Unit
    • Address for correspondence: Inserm-CEA Cognitive Neuroimaging Unit, NeuroSpin center, CEA/SAC/DSV/I2BM Bât 145, Point Courrier 156 F-91191 Gif/Yvette, France. Email:

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Reading in the Brain (Les neurones de la lecture, 2007) examined the origins of human reading abilities in the light of contemporary cognitive neuroscience. It argued that reading acquisition, in all cultures, recycles preexisting cortical circuits dedicated to invariant visual recognition, and that the organization of these circuits imposes strong constraints on the invention and cultural evolution of writing systems. In this article, seven years later, I briefly review new experimental evidence, particularly from brain imaging studies of illiterate adults, which indicates that reading acquisition invades culturally universal cortical circuits and competes with their prior function, including mirror-invariant visual recognition and face processing. In response to my critics, I emphasize how brain plasticity and brain constraints can be reconciled within the Bayesian perspective on learning. I also discuss the importance of a newly discovered gesture system in reading and writing. Finally, I argue that there is consistent evidence for deep cross-cultural universals in writing systems, as well as for the multiple subtypes of dyslexia that are expected given the broad set of areas recruited by the reading task.